I’ve attended two Stran Smith roping clinics and I’ve got to hand it to the guy. The 11x WNFR qualifier and 2008 PRCA World Champion Tie-Down Roper knows how to build you up but keep you humble at the same time. I was reading through his STS Ranchwear blog “Cheerleader or Challenger” and it got me to thinking that it’s ok to be second (or third or fourth). You don’t always have to be the winner to have fun or become better.
Stran’s focus was on the people you surround yourself with. He discussed the importance of surrounding yourself not only with “cheerleaders”; those who support and uplift you but also with “Challengers”; those who challenge your ideas and are not afraid to stand up to you. The balance between the two is necessary, if you have too many cheerleaders there is no room for growth and too many challengers can often damper our spirit.
There was a really great quote from Stran in his article, “If I’m always the smartest then I am always as good as I am.” Building on that, we as athletes and competitors need to find travel partners and/or friends who are strong in areas that we show weakness. That is how you build and become better.
So often, we find ourselves “keeping up the Jones”: who has the newest this, the fanciest that. Instead of focusing on the core of why we are riding, the fun; we let what our competitors have, steal our attention away from our own talents and the joy of riding.
Rather than focusing on what others are doing I want to encourage you to push yourself in your area(s) of weakness and learn from placing second. Have a friend video your runs and watch them back. Evaluate what was good about the ride and what needs improvement. Check the score cards, see what the judges gave you pluses for and what they faulted. After a show, take the time to talk with your judges, pick their brain and ask them how you can improve rather than “why didn’t I win”. Read your organizations rulebook to learn what the “ideal performance” looks like, practice for that.
Like Stran, I tend to “…learn more when I get a critique rather than a praise.” The biggest learning experiences and riding growth have come after devastating losses or embarrassing runs. Those moments of tears or anger fueled hours in the practice pen. Desire to prove myself and my horse pushed me to look outside my own skills and seek out help from those outside my own discipline.
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll remember “Spurs and Sports Bras”, the article I wrote about fitness and its ties to success in the arena. By adding a work-out routine to my schedule I’ve seen an increase in balance and strength. My roping has improved (just slightly), but in looking outside of roping the dummy and riding my horses I gained skills that benefited me in the rope pen. New tools were added to my little box of knowledge and my future seemed a little brighter.
So next time you find yourself in a rut or just outside of the winner’s circle I encourage you to step back and evaluate the big picture. Realize that being number 2 is ok too.
- Paige Morgan